If there is a friendlier player in baseball than Cincinnati first baseman Sean Casey, Page 2 hasn't met him. Heck, if there's a friendlier person on the planet, we haven't met him.
Always the league leader in conversation, Casey has led the National League in batting for most of the season. Page 2's Jim Caple sat down with Casey recently and drew a few words from the recalcitrant (not!) first baseman about the possibility of hitting .400, the glories of the '95 Honda Accord and the most valuable lesson to be learned from a Ken Griffey Jr. baseball card.
1. You make $6.8 million a year. Do you still drive that '95 Honda Accord?
I have it down in Florida and I drove it to all the games there. And sure enough, as I'm pulling up to the stadium, Griffey is pulling up in his Escalade and I'm pulling up in my '95 Accord with two dents in it. I pulled up and I think I parked next to a Bentley.
Guys are always giving me grief about it. "You make all that money and you're still driving that Honda?" But it was the first car I ever bought. When I signed, I bought two Hondas, one for me and one for my sister. They were like $20,000 each, which was a lot of money. And I just love it. It's great, it's got 125,000 miles on it. It gets me from Point A to B.
|Sean Casey in ESPN The Magazine|
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And it gets good mileage.
When I was down there recently, it was $2.11 for a gallon of gas and I was thinking, "Thank God I'm driving a Honda." And nowadays, all the parking lots have compact spaces. If you drive your big SUV in there, you can't get out of the door.
2. Did you save someone in a car accident last year?
You heard about that? I was driving home one day and was coming up on the exit, and this woman in an SUV just cuts me off. Then she takes the same exit I was going to take, and she hits the highway construction barrels -- veers right into the barrels. I'm like, "Holy crap." She steers to correct her SUV, rocks left, rocks right and then flips over, rolls, rolls, rolls into a ditch. I call 911 and pull off the road and run up to her. I go, "Ma'am are you all right?" She nods and the first thing she says is, "Boy, am I thirsty." It seems like a crazy thing to say, but I had a Gatorade with me; and after I pulled her out of the car, I gave her that. And she says, "I'm on a low-carb diet." I'm like, "What does that have to do with it at this point?" But she was literally reading the carb content on the label. I go, "Ma'am, I think you better just drink it."
She found out who I was later from the cop reporter or something, and wrote me a letter to thank me. But I think anyone would have stopped. I just happened to be the first car behind her that day.
3. You're known for talking to everyone. How many people do you say hello to in a day?
I don't know. A lot. Is it that big a deal to walk by and say hi to someone? I really believe that people want to be recognized. [At that very moment, Casey waves at teammate Paul Wilson walking by.] Hey, Willie! [Returns to conversation.] When you recognize people, whether you know them or not, it brightens their day. When I recognize people, nobody knows I'm a baseball player. I'm just somebody who said hi to them and maybe that's the only hi they get.
4. Are you for real?
I don't know. What have you heard about me? I'm no saint.
Don't you have any skeletons in your closet? Like, did you ever cut the cheese on the team bus and blame it on someone else?
Oh, no. I always claim it.
5. What's this about the Griffey baseball cards?
I knew you were going to ask me that. It's a story I'm not proud of, but it's a story that taught me a great lesson. I was in like eighth grade, and me and my friend were real big into collecting baseball cards. It was Griff's rookie year, so we're in this store trying to get as many of his cards as we could. We're going through the rack packs, because you can go through them like this and see the cards. You could shuffle the packs and see all the cards.
So we were there for a little bit; and we tried to find all the Ken Griffey Jr. rookie cards we could, and the other good rookies. Turns out the store security people were watching us the whole time. So we had a bunch of cards and we were walking out and these guys surrounded the area and said, "Hey, can you empty your pockets." And we do and, sure enough, we have all these Ken Griffey Jr. cards.
The guy takes me upstairs and calls my dad and says to him, "Do you have a son named Sean Casey? We just picked him up for shoplifting." I've never been so scared in my life. About 15 minutes later, my dad barges in and thanks the guy for calling him. And he grabs me and says, "Let's go." He doesn't say a word to me after that. We get in the car and he doesn't say a word the whole ride home. It was the first time I had really been in trouble.
We get home and my dad sits right in front of me and opens up the Webster's dictionary and he says, "I'm going to have you read the definitions of some words."
The first word he asked me to look up was 'greed.' It's about having more than you need, having more than you want. He had me read the definition four or five times. I was crying the whole time. Then he had me look up 'criminal.' And 'thief.' And 'selfish.' And then he had me look up 'trust.' He said, "Your mom and I trusted you, and you're going to have to earn that back."
Then he said, "Your actions affect other people. You're the reason prices go up, the reason people don't have jobs, because they have to pay for security for people like you." What he made me realize is that when you do something, there are consequences -- not only for yourself, but for other people. That point really hit home. The lesson I got was that life isn't just about you and the things you want. You need to think about how it affects other people.
The lesson I got from stealing the baseball cards has been lifelong. That life isn't just about you. That there are other people.
What a great way to teach a lesson.
It really was. Looking back on that as a father of two of my own, I really admire the creative side he took in teaching me a lesson. As a father, I will definitely try to be creative in teaching a lesson.
6. You were hitting .391 recently (currently .361). Do you think anyone can hit .400?
Boy. I think Barry Bonds could, because he walks so much and he squares the ball every time up. He's such a great hitter and he has a great eye. Ted Williams said the guy who's going to hit .400 has to walk a lot. So he might not have a lot of at-bats doing it; but if anyone can, it will probably be Bonds.
How about you?
You think about it. But it's June. If it was late August and I was at .391, I would think I definitely have a shot. But it's funny. You go out there and feel like you're getting a couple hits a night, and you're still not at .400. That's how tough it is. You go 1-for-3 and your average drops. If you go 2-for-5, it doesn't move. You go 2-for-4, and it moves up two points. You know what I mean? It's just so hard to get it to move up. It's like you would have to get it to .430 so that you can afford to have an oh-fer. It's like you have to be above .400 at the end of the season to give yourself a chance.
And look what happened to Ted after he did it.
Yeah. My wife and kids would freeze my body and sell the DNA.
7. Who would win a fight between Mr. Red and Mr. Met?
Probably Mr. Met. I think him being from New York, he would probably do whatever it takes to beat up Mr. Red.
8. What's the most interesting conversation you've ever had at first base?
The coolest conversation I ever had was with Mark McGwire in 1998. I don't even remember what we talked about. I just remember talking to him when he was chasing Maris -- the magic of it, the summer of '98. If you're a baseball fan, you'll never forget that. For me to be able to do that and be a part of that summer ... wow. He was such a bigger-than-life figure; and being able to talk to him, it just struck me.
Ever get someone picked off because you were talking to him?
One. Henry Rodriguez. We were talking and Ron Villone picked him off. Man, I felt so bad about that.
9. What's your favorite movie?
"Can't Buy Me Love." And you know what is really funny? I knew I was going to marry my wife when one of the first questions I asked her was, "What's your favorite movie?" And she said, "Can't Buy Me Love." She's the only person alive that has ever said that when I ask that question.
You might be the only two people in the world who would name that movie.
We might be. We watch it two or three times a year.
10. Which superpower would you want most: the strength of 100 men, the ability to fly or the ability to turn invisible?
The ability to fly, man. That would be awesome. To be like Superman? I'd love to fly. You see the birds up there flying, and to be able to join them? And you'd be able to get where you're going real fast.
I think you and Paul Molitor are the only two people to pick flying. I'd go with the strength of 100 men.
Oh, I wouldn't mind having it, too. But I'd fly first.